Starting from Zero…

Time off is a good thing…

Until it isn’t.

After AIDS/LifeCycle this year, I continued riding (or trying to) at least one time a week. There were certainly challenges to getting out and committing the time, but I stuck with it. At the same time, I let my diet go to crap, and got back into some negative habits that aren’t really compatible with cycling and any sort of hardcore training. A work trip to Paris was the last nail in the coffin. Upon my return, I couldn’t even look at my bike, much less think about riding. Ultimately, this led to me stepping down from a leadership position in my cycling team – something that just piled onto the mental chorus of reasons I really was done with riding for a bit.

I am here to tell you – my mental and emotional health wound up taking a HUGE hit. Also, my waistline…

So, yesterday, after a huge not-so-healthy dinner, I picked myself up and made myself set the bike up on the stationary trainer.  Then, I actually spent an hour spinning – I’ve lost a lot of my strength/power, but I kept going for the full hour I’d allotted for myself.

Today, I’m starting from zero. New focus on my health, making better choices food wise, and working to get myself back on my bike daily. I have no idea how this will go, but I’m committed to trying. This season, my focus is more on me and rediscovering my love of cycling. Stay tuned. 


Climbing, Descending, Falling, and TRL’ing…weekend recap!

This past weekend was a change of pace for me. Instead of back to back training rides, I participated in a skills clinic offered by Savvy Bike on Saturday, and TRL’d my second ever training ride on Sunday. I spent the weekend focusing on learning new skills and practicing them while riding with an amazing group of new and returning ALC’ers.

The strangest thing about Saturday? Sleeping in…well, sleeping in after feeding Marty.  After lunch, I made my way to Portola Valley Town Center and met up with our instructors, Bob and Annie.  After introductions and some ‘class time’ we headed out and spent the better part of the afternoon learning how to climb and descend.  We learned when it makes sense to climb in the saddle (long, slow climbs) versus out of the saddle (short, steep climbs or for a posture break). We talked about finding (and holding) your line, counter steering, looking where you want to go, and when your hands should be where on your bars. Bob and Annie were really amazing – they both had some really good pointers and techniques that I think will be invaluable as I move forward with my training in the coming months. As part of our exercise, we wound up going to the top of Alpine Rd – something that was offered as ‘bonus miles’ on a training ride last spring. I declined the extra mileage then, so this was my first time to the top – what a fantastic stretch of road!  It gets a little bumpy (and has a few steeper sections) but is a really nice ‘up and back’.  The other, not so fun, part of our exercise resulted in me losing my balance and falling…twice.  Both times I was practically stationary, and had plenty of witnesses.  It was a humbling experience – but, I remembered to laugh.  Everyone falls, and everyone picks themselves up and keeps going.

Sunday, I headed out to Del Norte BART in El Cerrito to help out with a 32 mile training ride.  The ride was a basic ‘out and back’ from El Cerrito to Vallejo and back, including the Carquinez Bridge.  There were some nice climbs (and even better descents) which gave me ample opportunity to practice the skills learned on Saturday.  I also spent some time practicing emergency stops, and biking at a pace slower than I’m comfortable with, all while providing support and encouragement (mostly smiles) to our group of riders.  The ride was a fairly quick one – we had all our riders back in before 2pm.  Afterwards, I sat in Berkeley traffic on interstate 80 (shocker, I know) as I made my way back to San Francisco.  Once home, I cleaned up and spent the rest of my day and evening reviewing cycling news and training resources.

This week, I’m hoping to get out on my bike after work one afternoon – it’ll be a night ride, with the time change, but I haven’t ridden the park in a while and could use some time working on my climbing (there’s a few blocks on Kirkham road that are perfect for short uphill sprints).  The weekend will likely be back to back rides, a fun Saturday night out celebrating my last weekend as a 39 year old, and some time spent looking ahead and beginning to make my goals for the coming year. The next few weeks should be interesting, on a number of fronts – stay tuned!

Guess what I did this past weekend?

I’m a full fledged, certified ALC Training Ride Leader (or TRL, for short).  I spent Saturday and Sunday learning what it means to be a great TRL from a few veterans, the importance of (active!) stretching with Steve and Imee from Renew Physical Therapy, the importance of bike fit with Dan from Revolutions in Fitness, spent some time improving our bike skills with Lorri from SavvyBike, and reviewed some basic bike maintenance and ways to keep things clean and shiny (as much as possible) with another veteran….

It was a really fun, engaging two days.  I’m already reviewing the information we received (and have been getting together my home bike maintenance supplies so I can give the Trek a proper scrub down).  The cycling community I have found myself in continues to provide me with opportunities to grow and challenge myself further – next up is maintaining my own training while I help others begin to prepare for next year’s ride.  After all the support and encouragement I received from my TRLs last year, I can only hope to do the same for the riders I’ll get to spend time with this year.

Also!  I’ve updated my donation page – the same link from last year should still work (and, you’ll see it points back to this blog!).  Please check it out, and if donate if you are able.  Stay tuned for a recap of my first ride as a TRL this coming Sunday!


What I did over my summer vacation…

Time flies when you’re having fun (and when you’re crazy busy at work). As we fall even farther into Fall, and as we begin to see the hints of a change in seasons, I’m beginning to realize that I’ve grossly neglected my blog over the past few months. My lack of posting does not equate to a lack of time on the Trek. While my training schedule hasn’t been as hardcore as the months leading up to ALC 2013, it has kept me in shape and has taken me on a few amazing rides.


In the months following this year’s ALC, I managed to go on a number of group rides with friends, training rides in preparation for back to back centuries, and the occasional solo ride. While I wasn’t on my bike every weekend, I feel like I kept up a decent level of fitness.

In September, I spent a fantastic weekend with a group of riders cycling from Mountain View to Marina and back as part of the 3rd Annual Double Bay Double. The organizer, sponsors, and volunteers did a fantastic job supporting our group as we braved unexpected and strong rainstorms on Saturday, and bumpy roads and headwinds on Sunday. Money raised for the event goes directly to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, providing support for their outreach and caregiving efforts. Two days, and almost 200 miles – definitely a challenging and rewarding experience.


This weekend, I’m in the midst of Training Ride Leader Certification with 5 others in the South Bay. Today was spent in the classroom discussing qualities needed when leading rides, organization details, and also some great information about stretching and basic bike fit. Tomorrow, we’ll focus on basic bike skills and simple bike maintenance.  I’m really excited at the prospect of helping a new group of riders prepare for next year’s ALC – also, getting to spend more time with some of the amazing training ride leaders that I’ve met in the last year.

Back in the saddle…

Last week, I took a break from cycling. Granted, it was more of a forced break, as I acclimated to my newly injured state – but still, time off the bike.

I can tell you I got fidgety. Allan can confirm it, too.

My fingers got especially fidgety, and found their way to Amazon. Four days later, I was unboxing an indoor trainer and various accessories. Monday, I was able to get it set up and spent some time giving my legs a much needed workout. After 30 minutes, I was a sweaty, panting mess – it was fantastic! An added benefit to the workout was getting to use my Garmin Edge 510 to track metrics and capture the details of my ride. It’s now Friday, and I’ve been on the trainer the past four evenings.

At this point, my goal is to be on the bike as much as possible – using the trainer isn’t the same as being out on the road, but it does keep me going as I prep for the ride in June. Keep your fingers crossed for perseverance and a swift recovery – I’m ready to get back outside!

Last night, I attended the first of six lectures about the ‘Medicine of Cycling’ at UCSF. Last night’s lecture was about proper bike fit and an overview of cycling injuries. Lots of ALC riders in attendance, and friends I’ve not seen since the accident. It really was an informative, fun evening…and strangely appropriate. Looking forward to the rest of the series and the knowledge they will share with us.

Sunday, I’ll be heading down to provide ride support to the group I’ve been training with out of Sunnyvale. It sounds like I’ll be a cross between water boy and cheerleader, and I can’t wait! It’ll be great to see the people I haven’t ridden with in the last few weeks, and it gives me an opportunity to participate in helping others train. I definitely see it as a win/win.

Hope you all have an amazing weekend. Sunshine and tailwinds!

Cyclist down…temporarily (I hope)…

So, this past Saturday I had my first major tumble on the bike.  I was winding down a spectacular ride from the city north to Woodacre, CA and back.  I’d had a really good day of climbing (having conquered White’s Hill – between Fairfax and Woodacre – for the first time), felt a lot better about my eating and drinking during the ride, and was enjoying the fantastic weather.  That all changed faster than I could’ve expected.

I wound up going down on the bridge on the way back (yes, if you were on the bridge mid afternoon, that was me that bit the dust spectacularly).  There’s a particularly narrow section of the bridge that seems even more narrow when packed with cyclists traveling both directions.  I wound up too close to the hurricane fence on my side – my handlebars got too close to the fence and caught, which turned my wheel to the right pretty quickly.  The bike stopped, and I wound up going over my handlebars.  I’m pretty sure at least one foot was still clipped in, because my bike was pointed the wrong way once I stood it up.

I was pretty shaken up, and it took me a few minutes to get my bearings (thankfully, one of the AIDS/LifeCycle Training Ride Leaders was not far behind me and stuck with me while I regained my composure.  I was able to get in touch with Allan, and he headed out to pick me up – once we got the bike (and me) loaded into his truck, we headed to CPMC Davies to the ER to get me checked out.

After some time, I was discharged with a severely bruised right hand, and an acute radial head fracture in my left arm.  Also, I’m pretty scraped up and bruised in spots.  My bike didn’t fare much better, it looks like – the front rim was bent, and both it and the bike frame are currently at the Valencia Cyclery repair shop getting inspected for damage.

Ultimately, I’m thankful that the accident wasn’t more severe.  It’s going to take a little time to get back to normal – patience is something I’m going to have to really cultivate in the next few weeks, so that I can heal and get back on the bike soon.  Cycling has become really important to me – not just because of the training I’m doing for the ride in June, but because of the friends I’ve made and the sense of community I feel apart of now.  While I’m recouperating, I’ll try and focus on cycling safety and nutrition in my posts – two things I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about over the past few days…

Here’s a picture from Saturday, pre-incident – a reminder of a fantastic day, and motivation to heal quickly and get back out on the road…


Random Thoughts on a Wednesday…

I’ll likely post more than a few of these over the lifetime of this blog, so bear with me…

First off, Tour of California.

Looks like they’ve unveiled the routes for all the stages this week.  Bicycling has a good course analysis – each of the stages looks to have its own unique challenges.  Personally, I’m looking forward to the second half of the tour, when the stages move north to the Bay Area.  If I’m lucky, I might be able to catch the start of the Stage 8 (it starts in San Francisco).  If I go, I’ll have camera in tow and will be sure to share pictures!

Second, bonking.

So, yeah, I had my first real brush with the dreaded ‘bonking’ this past weekend.  If you’d asked me on Sunday, I would’ve vehemently denied it.  Me?  Bonk?  Why, that’s just absurd!  I mean, yes, I did make a wrong turn that wound up adding three miles to my route, but that couldn’t have been because I was bonking….no sir…..

For the uninitiated, ‘bonking’ is how cyclists refer to hypoglycemia (medical term for abnormally low levels of glucose).  For a detailed explanation of ‘the bonk’, check out this blog post from the ‘Tuned In To Cycling’ blog.

What I’ve realized over the past few days is that ‘bonking’ is hard to see when it’s happening to you.  I found out that it makes me crabby, and that it lets loose all sorts of loud mouthed naysayers in my head.  It also lowers my route sheet comprehension.  I’ve spent a few evenings so far looking into proper pre and post ride nutrition, and will be approaching my rides this weekend a little differently in hopes of avoiding a repeat.

Third, cycling computers, or Where in the World is Clarke?

I got word earlier this week that my Garmin Edge 510 bundle was finally in stock and being shipped from SlipStreamSports.  It should be delivered in time for me to use it this coming weekend.  Totally excited to see how I can use it to tweak my performance – I wound up getting the bundle that includes the heart monitor strap and speed/cadence sensor, so I should be good to go.  The 510 also integrates with the Garmin Connect app on my iPhone – it allows me to update my location in realtime, and lets others see my progress.  Not sure who will want to watch me training rides, but you never know.

Fourth, the rides ahead…

This weekend will include our first team fundraiser (on Friday night at the Lookout in SF from 5pm – 9pm, come by!).  Saturday, I’ll be joining some teammates for a ride (it sounds like the Tiburon Loop, but I think there’s still some debate), and then Sunday I’ll be headed south to ride with the Awesome Ahead gang.  Not sure what my mileage will be, but I’m planning on having a great time.

Hope you all have a fantastic rest of your week, and weekend!

Amazing Weekend of training rides!

This weekend was full of bike riding.  After a low key Friday night that included baking cookies to hand out to fellow riders, I prepped my gear and headed to bed early.  Saturday morning, I headed down to Mountain View to meet up for the ride led by Chris Thomas.  Our route included one big climb, up Parrot Dr.  The climb was really three separate climbs, each challenging in it’s own way.  The view from the top was pretty amazing (see below):


This ride is the longest I’ve done so far, Strava logged it at 58.5 miles – you can check out my ride stats here.

Sunday, I headed back down south, this time to Sunnyvale to ride with Bob McDiarmid and the Awesome Ahead crew on their ‘Red Dress Day in February’ ride.  The route today was 40 miles, and included even more climbing.  The pic below is from the top of Elena Rd (or, at least the end of the big climb up Elena, there were still a few rollers to get through after this).  That’s a riding buddy, Gary, who was keeping pace with me for the first half of the ride, but totally dropped me after the second rest stop…


Today’s ride, even though it was shorter and not as difficult, was even more challenging – mainly because I wasn’t fully recovered from Saturday.  I realized early on that I wasn’t going to set any speed records today, and settled into a mindset to not quit on any hills and finish the ride.  I succeeded on both points, but did have a slight navigation error at the end, which resulted in about 3 extra miles.  You can check out my Strava data for today’s ride here.

Now, I’m crashed out on the couch, thinking back on the rides and the amazing people I’ve become friends with because of these weekends spent training.  Hope that you all have a great week – check back next weekend to see where my bike takes me!